Motherhood is the ultimate experience of womanhood. I don't want to sound divisive or anything, but after all if you have chosen to lead a child-free life why would you be reading this? So it's naturally something we think about - a perfect baby, a perfect birth, and of course, being the perfect mom from the time the egg got fertilized. As part of that, while we are pregnant we of course read all the right books, magazines and websites (obviously!). When I gave birth to my first child, the ideas of writing birth plans were on the newer side, and sounded a bit demanding to many medical professionals, as if we were telling them what to do from some completely uninformed place.
Of course, that's changed a great deal since then, and a birth plan is a normal part of prenatal planning. The problems can creep in when we envision, plan and then cross over the threshold into counting on those plans. It's like getting ready to be married. We imagine the perfect wedding; perfect weather, perfect timing, and everything going perfectly to plan. How often does that really happen? Maybe it's just me, but at my wedding there was a scheduling error and the organist didn't show up, and the groomsmen couldn't get the candelabras lit and improvised using lighters. Very elegant! Births are not perfectly plan-able events; and it's just the start, as children and parents are not perfect, either!
15 Didn't Listen To Mom
Lynn's mother reminded her time and time again to be certain to let her ob-gyn know that when she gave birth to Lynn she was allergic to cat gut and as a result, Lynn's mother had a less than ideal postpartum experience. Her stitches tore out and took some time to heal. But Lynn thought cat gut surely wasn't even used any more, after all it sounded so old fashioned. Lynn had a natural birth, but her baby was larger than expected, and an episiotomy was performed, and that cut ripped even more. She had a lot of stitches. A couple days after coming home, she was in terrible pain and felt unwell. But, she chalked it up to a tough birth. Then she developed a fever, and going to the bathroom became distinctly unpleasant, and POP! Her stitches were cat gut, they became infected and ripped out, just as they had with her mother. If only she had listened in the first place!
14 A Very Different Sequel
Donna had two children already, ages 10 and 6 when she found out she was pregnant again. Her previous births were pretty normal; in fact, if anything they were a bit too speedy. She had taken a childbirth class before the first, a refresher before the 2nd and zero classes before the third one. She figured, "I know what to expect at this point!" However, life isn't always so predictable, especially when it comes to births and children. While previous labors were quite manageable without drugs, Donna had used her lamaze breathing patterns to cope with intense contractions towards the end. During her third labor, things started and stopped... a few times. She had intense back labor, which is something she hadn't dealt with before. She felt an intense fatigue that never hit her in her previous births. She struggled to know how to deal with the pain when it didn't respond so easily to lamaze breathing. She managed to get through the birth without medication, but she was rattled that it wasn't a near breeze after two previous simple births. Her mistake, in her opinion, was not taking a refresher birth class.
13 Standing Up For Yourself
Kate had prepared quite well for birth and even considered complications and beyond the "perfect birth," so she was surprised when she looked back on the whole event and felt bitter. She and her medical provider were on the same page, and things overall went as planned. She did have some very uncomfortable stitches, but after all it was a first baby, so she knew it to be a possibility. What she didn't anticipate was that after her wonderful labor nurse went off duty, and the new shift came in that the whole tone of the place would change. When Kate was slow to sit or rise, the nurse chided her, "You may as well stop babying yourself. It's not that bad, but if you keep acting like that, you'll just make yourself worse!" She ordered Kate to get off the bed, and onto the hard, wooden rocking chair in the room. Kate tried to sit with less deliberate, measured movement, but as soon as her bottom hit the chair, tears filled her eyes automatically. The nurse made another sarcastic comment, and by the time Kate checked out of the hospital, she was shaken by the treatment she was receiving from her nurse. Looking back, Kate says, "I feel like such a wimp! Why didn't I insist another nurse attend me and my baby? I didn't deserve her animosity and I didn't have to take it. This shrew has left her bad memory imprinted on my first child's birth story."
12 Life And Death
Renee's baby saved her life. When the little guy refused to get into a proper position for birth in the final days of her pregnancy, it became clear a C-section would be necessary. So it was scheduled and she was relieved it would be soon. She wasn't feeling well at all; but who does right before birth, right? There were a few other little things, but that's what she thought they were - little things. One was a sore, red bump on the back of her neck. She figured it was just a pimple, maybe a little boil and it'd go away. She felt achy and sick the last week or so, and more than anything she was drained of all energy. But again, who feels energetic in the last couple weeks of pregnancy? She had her labs done in preparation for the c-section, and her baby boy was born as planned. He was completely healthy and the whole thing went smoothly. That's why it was alarming when the doctor called the entire family into her room a few hours after Renee was settled into her room. "There was a problem with the blood tests, and so we ran some more tests. Your white blood count..." Renee felt like she faded away as the doctor explained she had an aggressive form of leukemia and would need to start chemo right away. Renee had 50/50 odds, but she did survive and her baby is now a teen. But she warns other moms to never ignore nagging symptoms, no matter how pregnant they are.
11 Grandma Wars
With a first grandchild, people can lose their minds just a little bit. That's what Jolie found out. She and her husband were having the first grandchild on both sides of the family. It seemed like a good thing; after all, this baby was bound to be special and loved by a bunch of people. What could go wrong? Territory battles between the grandmothers soon brewed. Unfortunately, Jolie didn't set the rules early on, and by the time the baby girl arrived, the mother and mother-in-law were nearly at each other's throats. Who got to be in the labor room, who got to be first to hold the baby (after the parents) and who would go home with the family to "help out." It didn't matter if everything would be extended to both; it was who would be first. Instead of immediately correcting the out of control grandmas, Jolie hoped it would settle down and work itself out. However, it only grew uglier and more stressful. Finally, Jolie's husband politely asked everyone to go home and let them get settled into parenthood. They thanked the families for their concern and help, but they were creating more stress than lightening it right then. There was pouting and withdrawal at first, but eventually Jolie learned how to set the ground rules for the ladies.
10 More Turf Wars
Daniella stayed with her sister in law when her husband was off on military deployment. She was a rock for her, and she naturally didn't mind her sister-in-law being there for the birth. After all, she'd been there for all the ob appointments, the morning sickness and the mood swings. What she didn't realize was her husband felt a bit different about his big sis butting in. In the midst of labor, Daniella found herself the mediator between them. It escalated to the point of a shouting match between the sibs after the baby was born. Security was called and Daniella was horrified to have to explain the situation. She had to let the hospital know her husband could stay, and the auntie had to go home in order to keep the peace. "I had no idea that they would get into it like that. My mistake was assuming without talking to my husband about what would be best about the labor room. I was used to making decisions without him while he was gone, and he felt closed off from the whole pregnancy so he was determined to not be a third wheel at the birth."
9 Second Guessing
Anna didn't really have strong opinions about fetal monitoring, so when the nurse came in and put the belt on her abdomen, she didn't balk at the idea. "Just so we can keep close tabs on how baby is doing." But when she wanted to go to the bathroom, get up and stretch or walk around, it seemed she was being an inconvenience. Eventually she just tried to stay put in the bed and deal with the contractions from there. Labor stalled and when she didn't progress, the doctor recommended they augment the labor. They sped it so much so that Anna had an epidural she never wanted, just so she could handle the contractions better, and so baby would too. After going home, she felt disappointed. It wasn't that she wouldn't have done anything to insure her baby's health, but she wondered if she had resisted the continuous monitoring and gotten up and walked the halls if labor would have progressed normally. Then she'd of had the whole natural experience she'd hoped for. By not being entirely educated on the topic and having a stronger, and better expressed, opinion she'd never know if she had set herself up for interventions.
8 The Early Bird
Jada was having her first baby, and it was considered a typical, low-risk pregnancy. Except no one in her family regarded anything to do with her pregnancy as low risk. A bunch of nervous nellies, they were forever freaking out. So when the first pangs of labor started, they were all clucking around her about how quickly the contractions were coming, how intense they were and just how soon she needed to get herself to the hospital. As a single mom, she relied on her family's support, but she really didn't want to head to the hospital too soon only to get sent home. However, by the time her contractions were strong and varying between 8 and 5 minutes apart, they were insistent she had to go to the hospital. She allowed them to scoop her up, grab her labor bag and rush off to the maternity center. Which was where she stayed for the next 12 hours, with a labor that stopped and started over and over. Jada found herself wishing she'd firmly resisted coming as early as she had, because now instead of resting in her own bed, snacking on some light food and drink, she was in a hospital room where she had an IV in her arm and a rough hospital nightie chafing at her skin. It wasn't a horrid birth or anything, but she'd wished she'd stayed home longer.
7 The Wrong Doctor
Carrie wanted to have the best birth, the best hospital and the best doctor for her baby. She talked to all her friends with babies to get their input. One doctor's name kept cropping up, time after time. She managed to get into his office and they had a quick appointment getting to know one another. Something didn't really appeal to Carrie about the ob-gyn. He was definitely experienced, but he had a condescending manner whenever Carrie asked about certain topics such as epidurals, episiotomies and birthing balls. But she shrugged it off since everyone else just seemed to love him. Throughout her pregnancy she found herself being corrected or shut down whenever she had questions or disagreements over different aspects of pregnancy. She relented and deferred to his opinions, and her husband didn't have any idea that her doctor could be wrong about anything or that she could "know more than an MD." It colored her whole pregnancy experience. She was overjoyed secretly when the baby arrived during her doctor's vacation to the Bahamas, and she was attended by the practice's midwife. For once in her pregnancy she had some idea what it must be like to be listened to and heard. She regretted not seeking out a good match in her provider.
6 Striving For Perfection
Allie had waited a long time for this baby with her husband, Chris. They had fertility struggles and nothing was easy or quick. She wondered if this might be their one chance for a baby; after all, they were already in their early 40s. So it seemed that every aspect of pregnancy had to be done perfectly. No question. She wanted everything documented. The first time they heard the baby's heartbeat. The ultrasound. Heck, she even saved the pregnancy test stick! She also knew exactly how she wanted this birth to go. She wanted to labor at the birth center in the next town. She wasn't completely honest with the midwife on how far away she lived. She shaved a bit of time off the non-traffic time required to get there. On a good day, it'd be 25 minutes. On the worst, it'd be closer to 45. She knew that might mean she wouldn't be a good candidate for that birth center, so she fudged a bit. As it was her first pregnancy, she had no idea that she was prone to very fast moving labors. She found out when she nearly gave birth in the family SUV. They managed to get to the birth center in time, but barely. Her second child arrived even faster, but this time she chose a hospital nearer her home.
5 Daddy Regrets
Lisa was in a bad situation. She was only 19 and struggling to make ends meet working as a waitress while trying to get her associate's degree, when she discovered she was pregnant. Her relationship with the father was a shaky one. They were on again, off again and he wasn't the best support system in the world. Her family wasn't supportive at all, and when she wouldn't have an abortion, she found herself on her own. She did find a maternity home where she got all the support she needed, as well as a safe place to bring baby home to for at least the first six months. But she hesitated to include the father in her plans. She held off on telling him about the baby, because she thought he'd try to push her towards an abortion as well.
She told him about the baby once she was in her second trimester. He seemed fairly decent about it, once over the shock. They even tried to rekindle their relationship for awhile, but the fights grew more frequent. Maybe she was to blame, with her mood swings. Or maybe they were just wrong for one another. At any rate, they'd just gotten into a particularly ugly argument when the next day she went into labor. She said what she felt was the biggest mistake of her life when she opted to have the baby and not call the father until after the child was born. "I can never make that up to him, or my daughter either. I was so immature and selfish. This isn't my child alone and I took something away that I didn't have a right to."
4 Chickening Out
While no one else ever made her feel badly about her decision, Natalie still harbors guilt over her decision to schedule a cesarean when she found out her baby was breech. They had discussed manually trying to turn the baby, but she was so worried about the pain and that they still might need to do an emergency c-section afterwards. So she decided it'd be better to just schedule it to be fully prepared. But later, she wondered if she had given them time to try to turn the baby if the c-section would've been unnecessary? Some super moms even give birth to breech babies, so she felt like such a failure in comparison. Her son was born healthy, and rather on the large side, so no one thought it was a bad decision in retrospect. Except for Natalie. "I still feel like I wussed out. I mean, Nathan is 2 now and I realize I need to let it go, but I don't know how."
3 Three's A Crowd And Five's A Nightmare
Sonya has a very close relationship with her parents and her twin sister, so when it was time to discuss the birth, she thought it would be a great thing to have all of them in the birthing center with her and her partner, Greg. She realized a couple hours in, she was wrong, but didn't know how to kick them out at that point. While she assumed having her loved ones surrounding her would be a great comfort, things weren't exactly like that. She was intense, and edgy at times. She found their chatter both annoying and distracting as well. "I guess when I imagined the whole birth scene, I was fantasizing more than a little. I imagined it would be a little discomfort, an intense hour or so, then POP a baby and family photos." Instead, the whole thing dragged on and on and her family got bored and a wee bit whiny about it all. When her partner suggested they go on home, and he'd call when it was time, they all seemed relieved. "Greg really saved the day. I wish I had called them at the end and not brought them aboard for the whole adventure. I wasn't feeling social at all, and I should have anticipated that!"
2 Choosing The Wrong Place
Joni was a good friend of mine, and a labor and delivery nurse. She had three little boys and was expecting her fourth child, a girl. She lived one block from work, the local hospital. So it didn't seem all that odd to me when she decided to have a home birth. After all, she was experienced on both sides of the cervix. Yet, I heard all kinds of negative talk and hostile comments towards Joni. She didn't bend, but instead hired a friend, a seasoned midwife to attend the birth and got the blessing of her doctor (and coworker.) People said, "Why take a chance? What if something goes wrong?" As if nothing goes wrong if you opt for a hospital birth? She had a healthy baby girl at home, surrounded by all her guys. I loved the idea, especially after a less than ideal experience at the hospital for my first child. But when the pressure mounted on me - after all, not a nurse and living further than a block from the ER - I caved and did the same old thing, and relented. I gave birth at the hospital and while it wasn't as bad as the first birth, I still felt like I missed out on something because I was afraid to stand up for my convictions.
1 Not A Nursing Natural
Alisha grew up in an upscale home where state-of -the-art was standard. It was an almost sterile home. She was way out of her element when she said she wanted a natural birth, and chose to go with laboring in a birthing pool. Her parents were startled and none-too-happy. So when she went on to explain her commitment to nursing her newborn, her parents all but grimaced. She had never so much as seen a woman nurse prior to making her decision. She says she read every book she could on the topic, to try and prepare. But when the baby was born, she became nearly paralyzed with a lack of confidence. She didn't want to nurse in front of anyone, not even her husband. At least not at first. When the baby first latched on she said, "It hurt so much it brought tears to my eyes, but I didn't want to ask for help. I felt like a failure and a big dummy!" She knew there were lactation consultants available, but she didn't request one to stop by while still in the hospital. "It was stupid of me. I struggled for the first week, and cried myself to sleep a few times. Finally I gave up and called the doctor's office to request an appointment with the lactation consultant." Alisha said the consultant immediately put her at ease and helped her figure out how to get going and avoid the main problems of early breastfeeding.